Seventeen days until my daughter’s estimated arrival, yet she has no idea the transformation about to take place. As her body daily expands with the insulating fat that will sustain her, I can feel every ripple of her limbs in the ever-shrinking globe of my womb, and this movement makes me long to hold her, to trace her tiny features that she has inherited from either her father or from me. But I am sure our daughter does not feel the same anticipation surrounding our meeting as her parents.
Although she can hear the cymbal-like clash of pans as I cook or leaps whenever Randy, my husband, pats the tiny protrusion of her bottom or knees, she has no concept of the world she is about to inhabit. I am sure if given a choice she would remain in that cozy cavern rather than being ejected into such a frightening expanse where, for the first time, she will feel cold, hunger, and pain. Why should she trust me or trust her father to care for her? She has never seen either of us, and I am sure our voices, though familiar, are distorted in the jetsam of other mysterious sounds.
The more I contemplate the stark elements our unborn daughter will soon face, the more I compare it to Jack’s experience in Emma Donoghue’s novel, Room. The story’s harsh premise -- a kidnapped woman who bears and raises the child her captor fathered -- softens through the eyes and voice of five-year-old Jack. Since his birth, his mother has shielded him from the reality of their entrapment by convincing Jack that their life in that prison cell is the entire world; that no life exists beyond it. But once Jack and “Ma” escape, Jack is horrified to realize that the world is far larger than that 11 x 11 room.
Raindrops striking Jack’s face, syrup on pancakes, walking down stairs, grass beneath his feet: all these things fascinate and terrify Jack almost to an equal extent. Because he has never understood that he and his mother were cruelly confined, he wants to return to the safety and predictability that 11 x 11 foot room represents and cannot understand why Ma does not want to join him.
Over time, though, Ma agrees to return with Jack -- and with the addition of police escorts -- to the now emptied room. Jack then realizes while looking around that cramped space he once considered cozy that his worldview has changed and expanded, and he is grateful to leave Room although for months his every thought was of his return.
How often do we view our lives with the same perspective of an unborn child or five-year-old Jack? We relish in the familiar as it does not evoke fear and will often do whatever it takes to keep our 11 x 11 foot worlds spinning in perfect orbit. We cling to darkness because we do not know what it means to step into the light; we remain stunted by destructive choices because we do not want to lose that which should've never been gained; we continue walking down a path we should have never traveled because we cannot imagine what it will take to turn back around.
But imagine if my unborn daughter in seventeen days decided that she was never going to come out; that she was going to spend the rest of her life trapped in the cozy cavern of my womb rather than being ejected into such a frightening expanse where, for the first time, she will feel cold, hunger, and pain. Imagine all of the experiences she would miss out on -- her mother’s first caress, her father’s tears splashing on her cheek, the warmth and comfort of her grandma’s hug -- if she chose to remain stunted by the familiar. Imagine how different Jack’s life would be had he remained in that 11 x 11 foot room and not chosen to return to the life found outside it.
So, dear reader, take courage in the fact that you are not alone. Many have chosen to remain in prison cells of their own making because they fear what life will be like on the outside. But sometimes what we fear doing the most is exactly what we should do. During the “birthing” process, you will probably experience fierce cold, hunger, and pain. But you will also experience a freedom unlike anything you have ever imagined, and you will find that life is far more beautiful beyond the confines of that prison cell you have made into a home.